Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Unofficial "Celebrate Authors Day" - Or What I Learned at the OCW Conference

As a book blogger, I think I tend to take books for granted. I don't give myself a chance to catch up on my TBR (To Be Read) stack before I request another boatload of books to review. When I want a new story, it seems like one is at my fingertips with a click of the mouse or a trip to the mailroom. I admit - I love it! But at the same time, I think I've lost the wonder I used to have when I won books on blogs for the first time or when I got new books for my birthday and Christmas (or on a special trip to Borders - oh, how I miss that store!).

And with that lost wonder comes a lost appreciation for the hard work of authors. As a writer and aspiring novelist myself, I'm aware of the difficulties of sitting down and getting a whole book written...the fear of criticism and the editing process...the daunting to-do list (and knowledge of inevitable rejections) that has to be completed in order to get one's work out there. But as a book reviewer, I'm overwhelmed by the number of books out there just waiting to be read. That vast amount makes it seem like writing a book is a piece of cake - it must be if there are so many people who have been published!

But that's not how it is at all! The life of a novelist is hard work - emotionally and mentally. The general session and workshops I attended at the Winter One-Day Oregon Christian Writers Conference reminded me of just how much effort goes into a book - and just how much of a blessing authors and their stories are. I was also reminded of the joy in networking - of writers encouraging and helping one another.

What I Learned from Lauraine Snelling

Lauraine Snelling is so energetic and fun! It was a pleasure to hear her two general session talks, as well as her workshop talk on "Avoiding the Pratfalls and Pitfalls of Using Your Life in Your Writing." For those of you writers out there, here are some of her tips:

To Be Successful:
  1. Have a stick-to-it attitude
  2. Develop an alligator hide (for rejections - more to come on rejections in the next section!)


  • If God has called you to write, He has a purpose for it (published or not).
  • There's something wrong if the god we're portraying to the world is different than the true God who loves us.
  • Write real, and do it well!
  • "They can't eat you" - all the agents/editors can do is send your work back, so don't be afraid to get it out there.
  • Keep on writing!

"Avoiding Pratfalls and Pitfalls of Using Your Life in Your Writing":

  • Be prepared for the tears and pain of reliving events in your life.
  • Give yourself time to heal - so in the distance you can gain some objectivity. (Note God's timing.)
  • Consider making lists of events from your life, then identify what is going on, as well as the primary emotion, in those memories.
  • Remember that the character who has the biggest problem doesn't have to be the main character.
  • You shouldn't lock yourself into re-creating all the same details of an event you've experienced when you're incorporating it into your fiction.

The Big Principle:

  • Keep your butt in the chair long enough to get the writing done! =)

Those are some great tips! You can learn more about Lauraine Snelling and her work on her website.

What I Learned from Ann Shorey

Ann Shorey is super sweet! As you can see, she not only signed my book (which I've agreed to review for her - so be on the lookout for my review of The Dawn of a Dream sometime!), but she also agreed to have her picture taken with me (as did Lauraine). Sometimes an author's online presence or just the fact that they've been published through a well-known publishing company can make them seem larger-than-life, so it's wonderful to meet them in person and see that they're people just like you and me - people who have worked hard and persevered in order to share their stories with others. Definitely inspiring!

Ann's workshop covered the topic of dealing with rejections. Here are a few of her tips:
  • Before sending your work to an agent/publisher, be sure to check out their website and follow their guidelines. Sometimes the publisher you choose might not be the right one for you, so those rejections wouldn't be surprising.
  • Do not publicly criticize editors or agents who reject you. Christian publishing is a small world, and it's all about networking and building relationships. So don't shoot yourself in the foot and ruin future opportunities by neglecting to mind your manners!
  • Pay attention to the personalized rejections and be willing to possibly incorporate the corrections/changes suggested.
  • You don't send your work out, you don't get published! So persevere - but in the meantime, be willing to start another book, and another one, and another one, while you are waiting for responses.

You can learn more about Ann Shorey and her work on her website.

Overall, this conference was an awesome experience! It was great to meet these two authors, as well as interact with other writers and some friends who also attended.

Have any of you met some authors or attended a writers conference lately? Feel free to share some tips you've learned or some memories you've made!


Linda said...

I've recently met Sigmund Brouwer, Canadian author of 100 children and adult books. What a delight! I interviewed him as well and reviewed one of his books, The Leper. I have 3 posts about that experience on my blog: 'Sigmund Scored, We Won' and 'Interview with Sigmund Brouwer'.
I also recently met the Freedom Singers at their concert in our area and read and reviewed their book - AMAZING! This is a must read!!

Linda said...

Sorry, forgot to give the title of the Freedom Singers book: 'The Price of Freedom'.

Christina B said...

It sounds like you had a great time and gained some wonderful insights! So glad you got to meet and get pictures with both Lauraine and Ann also. What a neat experience! :)

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm glad the conference was such a great experience for you, Amber. How cool that you got to learn from Lauraine and Ann--and get your pic taken with them. =)

Audrey said...

It was so exciting to see you at the conference, Amber! I'm glad you came.

Quite apart from the lessons I get from the speakers, I've found that the conferences motivate me to keep writing--there's something energizing about rubbing shoulders with a whole roomful of writers.

Gwendolyn Gage said...

Sounds like you had a blast and soaked up quite a bit! Excellent advice from Lauraine and Ann. I like the note: "Remember that the character who has the biggest problem doesn't have to be the main character." Great pictures, and thanks for sharing!

Ann Shorey said...

It was a joy to meet you at the conference, Amber! You're super sweet, too. Thank you for sharing the tips you gained, and for posting the pictures. :)

Amber S. said...


That's awesome! :) How cool that you met an author and a music group - sounds like some great experiences!

Thanks for sharing!


Amber S. said...


Yes, for sure! :) Thank you for your kind words - I'm grateful for the chance to go, as well as the chance to share my experience with all of you!


Amber S. said...


Thank you! And yes, when I saw that Lauraine Snelling and Ann Shorey were going to be there - well, I just couldn't let the opportunity pass! It was really neat to meet them, to learn from them, and to get my picture with them. :)


Amber S. said...


I agree - it was wonderful to see you there, too! :) I'm so glad that we had a chance to catch up a bit and share the experience together (as well as some great Chinese food!). And I love your last comment! It's often said that writing is such a solitary/lonely occupation, so it's great to have the opportunities to connect with others who also have a heart for the written word. :)

Hope we get to run into each other again soon!


Amber S. said...


Oh, yeah! :) And wasn't that a great tip? I hadn't really thought about that specifically, but I definitely think it's important to make our secondary characters deep - and to realize that sometimes we can work through an issue through a secondary character so it's not center stage, if that makes sense!

Thank you for stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post! :)


Amber S. said...


Aww, thank you so much! I'm so glad to have had the chance to meet you and to learn from your own writing journey. :)

Thank you for stopping by, and best wishes on your continued writing career!


Marianne said...

Thank you for reminding me about the awe of books. Yes, i have lost a bit of that - but i still grab books out of the library. I am thrilled that you met Lorraine. She is such a neat person! i love her. And i am glad that you had a great time at the conference.

Amber S. said...


Aww, I'm glad that we can encourage each other! :) And it was definitely a pleasure to meet Lauraine - I love how positive and outgoing she is!

Thank you for stopping by and for sharing in my joy! :)


Christy said...


I'm thrilled for you that you had such a memorable day, and got to mingle with two seasoned authors, to boot!

What you said in that first section is so true. It felt like you took the words right out of my mouth! I have a horrible tendency to over-promise on book reviews, and then feel enormous guilt when I don't get them reviewed in as timely a manner as I would prefer. And you're right...we do lose appreciation for the authors that put their blood, sweat, and tears into their work. I can't imagine being on the other side of the coin, and you're a brave soul to wade into the waters of writing a novel. As always, I wish you every success in that area!

Beautiful post...sorry it took me (ahem) a month to find it and read it! :o)

Amber S. said...


Thank you so much for the sweet comment! It's so nice that us book bloggers can understand and support each other. :)

I really appreciate your friendship and your encouragement!